Speedway

Go with the loud, the sweet, the high
Ones. It doesn’t mean a thing,
On the slick hardpan of Nazareth’s curves,
To bounce the brickyard wall–

Or Portland for the G I Joe,
Under the mussel clouds,
If in first place beneath the stands,
Your engine throws a rod.

Oversteer, push, in dirty or clean
Air, down force is your hot friend.
It’s bump and run to spray the wine,
Or it’s grenade and catch the fence.

Book Review: Republic Cafe by David Biespiel

My review of a fine new book-length poem by David Biespiel was just published in the May issue of Plume.

Republic Café is David Biespiel’s sixth book of poetry. It is arguably his finest work. Loosely based on Alain Resnais’ romantic drama film Hiroshima Mon Amour, this book-length poem borrows the movie’s main storyline and recasts it as a shape-shifting Noh play, presented in 54 numbered sections. The story follows two lovers over a 36-hour period as they meet and have an affair in the days following 9/11.

More…

Republic Café
David Biespiel
University of Washington Press
$19.95 hardcover
January 2019

Brace and Bit

My grandfather’s brace and bit
wasn’t very useful. Leftover

from the days of sail, it was
a country carpenter’s tool.

To countersink a screw
or drill a pilot hole

you had to put your shoulder into it
and often clear the ratchet and the pawl.

But the bits! The bits had heft and soul.
He had a rack of them like rebel soldiers

just back from building pinewood boats
to carry Jackson’s army across the flood.

Long shank and tapered tang
and a ribboned twist for cutting,

they were like the devil’s hoof to sharpen–
and could open a finger lengthwise too.

For DK, Who Doesn’t Think She is a Poet

Some of your work
gives me the poetry shivers.
Where can a mother and God go
to drink coffee among rockweed and plover?

I am fascinated to know earth
gets distracted by its own ruts.
And once, light was powdered and fell
in patterns birds later copied.

And a child’s ear is a riverbed
above the eave of her cheekbone.
And one can breathe in minnows!
I didn’t know, I didn’t know.

Eye Motes #2

1
After fifty feet, you are down to the smaller bones.

2
Rosemary and fir needles in an old clay pot on the deck.

3
Lotsa luck giving things away. Metallic tasting wounds.

4
Fluted window glass. Car tail lights going back and forth.

5
Dinner on the outer wall—someone’s tunic is on fire.

6
At the national art museum. Everything isn’t in there.

7
Thin people walking into you. Give them your hat.

8
The cracked face on a thousand year old bowl.

9
A Mardi Gras mask. Thumbs in a cast.

10
Cotton bolls on stalks in a brown vase.

11
Every time the wrong thing happens well.

12
They probably saw something and didn’t say anything.

13
The way you walk when go means not now.

14
This madness is like fleas.

15
A donkey slide. Know your betters.

Book Review: Soft Science by Franny Choi

I was prepared to hate it / well, hate is a strong word /
let’s just say give it wings and let it sail past the bridge
/ but it doesn’t suck / it doesn’t pretend to get on its knees
and make the rafters sing / it is a red owl on a bicycle with hungry eyes /

“Who isn’t bruised around the edges, peaches poured
into the truck bed, receipts faded to white?”

it sends out science mannikins to shout about being nervous in secret /
it collaborates with machines to make rain squalls / it argues for
a better kind of blindness / it warns others about dreaming in stairwells
and at crime scenes / it is a crime scene painted in butterscotch broth /

“The cop speaks and I call a plum into is his mouth
and it doesn’t shut him up.

The cop kneels in the grass below my friends, my friends
crowned with August and Salt. My marigold my wave.”

tendrils and tips and sprockets combine to give it firm plant awareness /
“cyborg means man made” I didn’t know / it is like new sounds added
to frost in the stubble by the road / in a Wyoming winter snow drifts
come and go like grainy herds of buffalo / this book is like those herds
mated with seigniorage — the profit made from the minting of coins /
ducats in the pillow / francs thrown into the Seine / everything costs
what you are willing to throw away / this book is completely free
in that sense / it is madly lyrical / and worth your time.

Note: this review is for the Rumpus Poetry Book Club. Soft Science
is forthcoming from Alice James books.

The Man Who Fished For Children

The girl’s body was stuck under a ledge at the bottom of a plunge pool where the river spun like some mad cyclone bent on boring to the center of the earth. His only tool a long grievous pole, his face set like he was born scowling, it took him a full day to get to her, tie the retrieval ropes and lever her out. The river, gorging on snow melt, fought him like he had no right to her body.

Quiet as cormorants, people stood on the rocks and watched. He brought her up, laid her on a sand bar and told everyone to leave. Later, at the parking lot, people tried to offer him money to say thank you. He said no and tied the pole to the side of his truck.

Tossing in sleep that night with a bone deep headache, he thought about the frozen knobs of her hands. He saw the outhouse at the Methodist church camp he attended when he was a kid. Putting his eye to the chink, a yolk of light coming out, then nothing.

Then his parent’s farm in Estacada. A Berkshire hog with bloodshot eyes standing in a field of stumps. Butchering day. Long skein of intestines. Head with its snout and hairy nostrils set aside for cheese. Steady drip of blood on the dirt. Dogs baying for scraps. Marshlights in the summer darkness.